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Ugly Christmas Sweaters: Navigating the trend

December 6, 2013
By MOLLIE WARNER - The Scene , Times Leader

Ugly sweater parties have become a cultural phenomenon over the last several years, and it looks like they'll be popular again this holiday season. They generally have a simple theme: find the ugliest, tackiest holiday sweater you can, and wear it with uninhibited glee. The fun is in making everyone look equally ridiculous and some party hosts even give out prizes for ugliest sweater. As with Halloween parties, it's hard not to smile at a particularly silly get-up and talk to the person wearing it.

According to the authors of "Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book: The Definitive Guide to Getting Your Ugly On," Canadians are to blame for the season's most sarcastic trend. The ugly sweater trend began around 2001 in Vancouver, Canada, where parties with the theme were first held.

Some people may disagree on what constitutes a sweater's ugliness; but generally an ugly sweater means one that is unfashionable, bulky, and devoted entirely to a holiday theme. If a sweater has the colors green and red combined, along with embroidered decorations such as felt snowmen, trees, or bells, chances are it's ugly and would be appropriate for a party.

Ugly sweaters have become so popular that thrift stores are often unable to keep vintage sweaters in stock. They're generally put on featured shelves after Thanksgiving and the more garish they are, the faster they sell. The popularity means that irony-seekers may need to turn to the internet to find a sweater that's suitably tacky. Because of the jump in value, people who already own ugly sweaters but don't wish to partake in the trend can sell their wares on eBay or Etsy for decent prices. Some particularly gaudy sweaters have sold for hundreds of dollars, bringing the irony of wearing cheap-looking clothing around full-circle. Various websites such as and have popped up online to sell purposely-tacky sweaters, Urban Outfitters sells an instant Ugly Sweater 6-Patch Set, and Target even houses an Ugly Sweater Collection. Reasonably cute sweaters can be modified to become ugly with gaudy holiday patches, bells, ribbons, garland, extra yarn, etc. and a hot glue gun. Just keep in mind it will only be good for ugly sweater events after modification.

If Goodwill has been picked clean and the internet or making your own sweater seem too daunting or too expensive for something to be worn in jest, turn to relatives or dig through the attic for an appropriately hideous sweater.

When it comes to ugly sweater parties, the more enthusiasm the better.

Warner can be reached at



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